How To Reduce Fat In Ground Beef


[Courtesy Petit Chef]
When you buy ground beef, stores charge more for meat with lower percentage of fat. If you are seeing a deal on ground beef, most likely you are looking at meat that is 80% lean or lower (i.e. 20% fat), compared to as much as 97% lean (3% fat) from the more expensive meat.
But rather than pay extra for leaner ground beef, you can buy the higher-fat meat and cook the fat out yourself, thus saving a few bucks in the process.
A study in the Journal of The American Dietetic Association showed that rinsing cooked ground beef crumbles could reduce fat by as much as 50%. Blotting also removes fat too.
Here’s how to reduce fat in ground beef, according to this paper (PDF):

Brown ground beef in skillet over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes or until no longer pink. Stir occasionally to break beef into large pieces (about 1/4 inch).
Meanwhile microwave 4 cups water in 1-quart glass measuring cup or microwaveable bowl on HIGH 5 to 6 minutes or until very hot, but not boiling (150 to 160 degrees F).
Drain fat from skillet.
Using a slotted spoon, remove beef crumbles to large plate or other container lined with 3 layers of white, non-recycled paper towels. Let sit 1 minute; blot top of beef with more paper towels.
Place beef in a line mesh strainer or colander and set it on a 1/2-quart (or larger) sturdy bowl.
Pour hot water over beef to rinse fat. Drain 5 minutes.
Proceed as recipe directs.

Alternatively, you could skip the water and just blot the meat with a paper towel, which removes a great deal of fat too.
How much?
Well, for ground beef that is 73% lean, cooking a 3-ounce patty normally yields 248 calories and 18 grams of fat. When you cook the 3-ounce portion in beef crumbles (instead of a patty) and then blot, that drops even further to 195 calories and 12 grams of fat. And if you blot AND rinse the beef crumbles, the 3-ounce patty drops to only 135 calories and 6 grams of fat. That’s the equivalent of 94% lean ground beef.
I have drained and blotted meat, but I have never rinsed it with hot water. While I believe this works, it may also affect the taste of the meat, maybe drying it out or making it less flavorful overall. Because hey, fat tastes good.

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2 thoughts on “How To Reduce Fat In Ground Beef”

  1. Darn tootin’ fat tastes good! 😉
    I’ve been spending a great deal of time learning about real food in general, and how saturated fat from animal food (milk and meat), and plants (olive, coconut, palm) is actually incredibly necessary to our health- especially brain growth for babies and during pregnancy. Just look at traditional tribal diets for women in their childbearing years! Lots of fats and organ meats.
    Some vitamins also are only fat soluble- A, D, E, K, and I’m sure there are more I’m forgetting… 🙂
    It’s been my experience that if I consume lots of the fats and oils I just mentioned, I’m more satisfied after I eat, and a lot quicker.
    One thing to remember is that sadly, a lot of fats available are not great quality- we try to get grass fed/ free range/ or organic meat when possible, and organic oils.
    And I’ll now step down from my little soapbox.. 🙂

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  2. Christy–I do agree that fat has a place in our diets, but most Americans get way too much fat, which is one of the reasons we have such problems with obesity, heart disease, etc. The FDA recommends we only get about 20%-30% of our calories from fat, and for those fats to be polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids from sources from fish, nuts, and vegetable oils. They also recommend that if people consume animal fat, they go for lean proteins and dairies. Which is all to say, if people are cutting back on fat for health reasons, this is a way to do it without buying the more expensive meat. I do agree with you that grass fed and free range is the way to go with ground beef, and that is what I usually buy when I’m out shopping.

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